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Should power users drive the bus?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

via Flickr - Ian DickWithout a doubt you have come across business or personal applications that are not easy to use.  Business applications in particular can be less intuitive because of the complexity of the tasks required.  But that complexity may be due to over-engineering.  We have all heard of the less is more concept.  But in software, less isn’t really less, its just essential. 

There are always situations where one user wants another function or feature.  The trick is to identify the essential functions and help power users understand approaches to solving unique tasks.  When the tasks are performed frequently but by a few users or less frequently but by many users, the solution should support those tasks very well.  Here are some things to think about to select a solution that nails the essential functions and supports the power user.

The most important aspect of choosing a solution is defining exactly what problems or tasks the solution is needed for.  If the requirement is ensuring that users have a trusted source of customer contracts or employee documentation, then the solution needs to have features and functions that achieve that result.  A trusted source of critical documents doesn’t really need a feature to track the popularity trends of a document.  It really needs a feature to ensure the document is properly cataloged and stored. 

Determine the frequency of the tasks being performed.  The 10% rule should apply here.  If one person in the company has a specific task that they need the application to help them accomplish, don’t select the winner based on that.  Look at other ways to accomplish that task – there will be other ways.  Really hone in on the tasks that get done day in and day out and how well the application satisfies those tasks.

Understand your own company culture and language.  There are likely some applications that have navigation based on words commonplace to your industry or company.  If applications can tailor the toolbar descriptions or navigation to use familiar terminology, that will make the application easy for your users.  If the application can’t do that, look for applications that already service other companies in your industry, they have probably already tackled that issue.

There is a need to ensure flexibility in an application to support the power users.  But that does not mean there needs to be a built-in feature for every eventuality.  Make sure the application has easy to use data exporting.  At the very least, if your power users can export the data, they will find a way to customize that data and connect with other data to accomplish their task.  If the data is locked up in the application, that restricts use and flexibility. 

Power users are inherently creative and industrious and will be able to efficient pull a little from here and take a little from there and get the result they need.  If that need starts to be a daily need or weekly across many users and the demand for a more efficient way is justified, communicate that with the solution provider and see what can be accomplished.  Let the daily users drive the bus.

Millennia Group has been providing an easy to use, focused workflow and document management solution since 1996.  www.mgdocs.com, info@mgdocs.com.